Feb 272015
 

The fox is proposing to the chickens that it protect them from the raccoons.

The draft Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2015 aims to “establish baseline protections for individual privacy in the commercial arena” and to foster those through “enforceable codes of conduct.” These are worthy goals, and achieving them sounds like something the U.S. Federal Trade Commission should be working on.

A “consumer privacy bill of rights” is clearly intended to apply specifically to people who are consuming. The right to personal privacy needs protection regardless of whether people participate in the economy by producing or by consuming, and also if they do not participate at all.

For the White House to focus on this bill now, nearly two years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to the world the truth about our and other nation’s spy agencies, while those agencies continue to operate with complete disregard–in some cases, outright disdain–for personal privacy, slurping up every bit of data they can access by hook or by crook, is to distract the nation from what I see as the most serious problem we face today.

The most significant threats to people’s privacy come from governments’ law enforcement and spy agencies, not from private businesses. Private businesses’ actions are most threatening to our privacy when they collaborate with law enforcement and spy agencies. Private businesses cannot put people in jail based on their words or associations, but governments can and do. Private businesses can neither compel people to hand over information about a third parties nor prohibit them from speaking to others about that order, but governments can and do both.

People can choose not to do business with Wal-Mart or Amazon. We can choose not to tell Facebook anything about ourselves. We can choose not to use Skype, Office 365, Dropbox, or Gmail. But we cannot choose to avoid the actions of FBI, TSA, CIA, or NSA.

If the people of Microsoft dislike the fact that I advocate for the use of open standards and free software, they cannot take action to prevent me from doing so. If the United States government doesn’t like what I have to say or with whom I associate, they can collect and analyze all of my digital communications in search of something to use against me. They can put me on secret watch lists. They can prevent me from exercising my right to travel by air from one state to another. They can label me a terrorist and put me on the president’s drone-assassination list.

The “Internet Privacy Bill of Rights” proposed by the Obama administration would be far more protective of our right to privacy if every use of the word “consumers” was replaced with “people” and if every use of the word “companies” was followed by the words “and governments.”

Oct 182014
 

Yesterday evening, I answered a buzz at my building’s gate to find that someone from CenturyLink, a telecommunications company formerly known as Qwest, as U.S. West before that, and probably as Bell or AT&T before that, was there to tell me about work they’d been doing in my neighborhood. She said they now offer Internet service here, and that she thought that previous options included only the cable company, Comcast.

Though I didn’t mention it, I have had a CenturyLink DSL connection at this address (with independent ISP Telebyte NW) since before they were known as CenturyLink. I told her that last I checked, their higher-speed service imposed a monthly transfer cap of about 46 hours of transfer at full speed (that’s 250 GB at 12 Mbps or so). She said she was unaware of any such cap.

Today, I went to CenturyLink’s site with hopes of finding better options than I found last I checked, a few months ago. Once again, their site was nearly useless, providing little more than teasers filled with wiggle words. So I started a “live chat” on the Web with a sales representative. I learned that the “up to 1 Gbps” service they offer for $80 per month, bundled with plain-old telephone service, is capped at 250 GB per month. At one gigabit per second, it takes 2,000 seconds, or a bit over a half-hour, to transfer 250 gigabytes of data.

Following is a transcript of our conversation (UPDATE: previous transcripts follow):

 

General Info
Chat start time Oct 18, 2014 3:08:30 PM EST
Chat end time Oct 18, 2014 3:57:10 PM EST
Duration (actual chatting time) 00:48:39
Operator Jodi B.
Chat Transcript
info: Thank you for contacting CenturyLink. A sales and service consultant will be with you in just a moment.

Your account information is confidential and protected by law. Please advise our agent if you prefer that we don’t use it to market products or repair your services. This has no effect on the service or offers we provide you.

info: Thank you for contacting CenturyLink for your internet and television needs. This is Jodi B., how may I help you today?

info: To ensure compliance with Payment Card Industry guidelines, please do not share your credit card information, security code, or CVV/CVC in the body of this chat. If required, your credit card information will be requested through a separate, secure window.

Potential Customer: Hi. I’m trying unsuccessfully to find a page that lists details of Internet service available in Seattle. Whether I click “check for services in my area” or “order now” I’m sent to https://www.centurylink.com/fiber/plans-and-pricing/seattle-washington/#CTAM which has the same information as previous page.

Potential Customer: Can you please give me the URL of a page which provides this information?

Jodi B.: What details are you trying to find/

Potential Customer: Internet services offered and prices at which you offer then.

Potential Customer: Not “up to” N “when you bundle” without any info about the technology used, what must be bundled, what “up to” means, restrictions on use, SLA, etc.

Potential Customer: Just, “we offer <detail about service> for a subscription of $N per <period>”

Potential Customer: Is that on your website?

Jodi B.: I would be happy to discuss all these pieces of information with you if you can provide me with your complete address?

Potential Customer: Is this information on your website?

Potential Customer: I can read it myself if I can just find it.

Potential Customer: But your website is horrible, and so far, I cannot find it.

Potential Customer: I hope you can point me to it.

Jodi B.: All internet speeds fluctuate no matter what provider you go with which is why our speeds state “up to”. No company can guarantee an exact speed all the time.

Potential Customer: via URL

Jodi B.: The specifics that you are requesting are not listed exactly on our site.

Potential Customer: Of all the things you might have on your website, this seems the most valuable.

Potential Customer: You really could cut out everything else and list what services you offer and at what prices, and both you and i would be better off.

Potential Customer: So I’m baffled.

Jodi B.: Our site will tell you what is provided in the bundle that you are looking into, but it will not provide you with the restrictions on use and SLA. Our Internet is DSL so the technology type is going to be ADSL2+ or VDSL2 depending on the speed that you are looking into.

Potential Customer: Oh, great! Please give me the URL to the 1 Gbps bundle offered in Seattle.

Potential Customer: I didn’t think VDSL2 went that high, but I have a modem that will do ADSL2+ and VDSL2, so I’m in good shape.

Jodi B.: I do not have a specific URL that will take you to an exact speed. Our speeds are based on your exact address as we are a DSL provider.

Potential Customer: You wrote, “Our site will tell you what is provided in the bundle that you are looking into.” I’m looking into the “up to 1 Gbps” bundle in Seattle. Can you give me the URL of the page to which you referred?

Jodi B.: I cannot provide you with an exact URL that will take you directly to the 1GB if it is available at your address. You will have to search for the speeds available to you at your home in order to get a list of speeds. If the 1GB is available at your home, then it will be listed.

Potential Customer: It is listed. I do not believe that your site will tell me what is provided for the bundle i”m looking into, but I welcome you proving me wrong.

Potential Customer: Can you tell me where I can find that on your site?

Potential Customer: I’m pretty handy with a browser, but no luck.

Potential Customer: after multiple attempts in multiple browsers over multiple months

Potential Customer: Really, I want to give you money to move my bits. But your website is infuriatingly poor.

Potential Customer: and of course, that does not inspire confidence

Potential Customer: But let’s try again. Where can I read specifics of services you offer?

Potential Customer: For example, I’m starting at https://www.centurylink.com/fiber/plans-and-pricing/seattle-washington

Potential Customer: nothing there but some teasers

Jodi B.: Our Proxy servers prevent us from getting onto our site from our side of things so I cannot provide you with an exact URL for the bundle that you are looking at.

Jodi B.: If it does not state any other services, then  you will only be getting internet.

Potential Customer: Cool. Let’s start with an approximate one.

Potential Customer: It says: Seattle Residential Pricing

Potential Customer: 1) “get speeds up to 40 Mbps (where available) starting at $30 a month for 3 yrs when you bundle

Potential Customer: 2) get speeds up to 100 Mbps starting at $50 a month for 3yrs when you bundle

Jodi B.: Click here

Potential Customer: 3) get speeds up to 1 Gig (I think you mean Gbps, but whatever) (in select areas only) starting at $80/mo for 3yrs when you bundle

Jodi B.: That link will take you to our main home page which is the only URL that I have.

Potential Customer: you gave me http://www.centurylink.com/

Jodi B.: Which is the only URL that I am able to provide.

Potential Customer: That sounds ridiculous, but that’s your business. Can you guide me to where I can read about services you offer and subscription prices?

Jodi B.: All 3 of the previous bundles are with home phone unlimited for 3 years without a contract.

Potential Customer: Let’s break that down. “with home phone” I care not about, so I guess you’ll hook up POTS and I’ll ignore it. “unlimited” I’m very curious about, because last I chatted with a sales rep, I found that you capped data transfer at an amount that I would hit in 46 hours at offered speed. “3 years without a contract” is perplexing. Seems it’s 1 year or 10 years or 6 months unless there’s a contract or prepayment.

Potential Customer: So, 1) what did you mean by unlimited?

Jodi B.: The unlimited is only for the home phone. It is not for internet. The internet does have a 250GB data cap.

Potential Customer: and 2) what is 3yrs without contract?

Jodi B.: The 3 year price lock bundle without a contract would include:

Jodi B.: Home Phone Unlimited local and long distance calling

Jodi B.: Whatever speed of your choice with a 250GB data cap

Potential Customer: 250 GB at 1 Gbps is 33 minutes and 20 seconds

Potential Customer: You’re seriously offering 1 Gbps service with a monthly transfer cap of a half-hour of transfer?

Jodi B.: 250GB is the data usage cap. 1GB is the speed.

Potential Customer: 1 GB (one gigabyte) is a quantity, not a speed. I think you mean 1 Gpbs (one gigabit per second).

Potential Customer: and 250 Gigabytes take 33.33 minutes to transfer at one gigabit per second

Potential Customer: s/Gpbs/Gbps/

Potential Customer: Anyway, you’re telling me that this new high-speed service would be capped at about 30 minutes per month of usage at full (theoretical) speed, right?

Potential Customer: I understand actual speed would be less, but no less than half that under crazy situations. So maybe an hour at full-bore?

Potential Customer: Seriously?

Jodi B.: What do you use your Internet for?

Potential Customer: Transferring data one bit at a time from one computer to another.

Potential Customer: And I want to pay for a service to move those bits.

Potential Customer: And you’re offering to move 250 GB per month at up to 1 Gbps, roughly, depending on line conditions, etc.

Potential Customer: Which, at that rate, would last about a half hour.

Potential Customer: What, specifically, I move over those wires depends on what it costs me.

Potential Customer: The faster the service, the more usage I’ll make of it.

Potential Customer: When I’m on a slow mobile link, that’s probably just e-mail. With fast enough service, I’d run a Tor node and a Debian mirror, maybe stream audio captured from radio.

Jodi B.: If you are transferring 1 Bit at a time with the Internet. With a 250 GB cap you would be able to transfer 250,000,000 bits to reach the cap.

Potential Customer: But I want to be clear: You’re capping data transfer at about 30 minutes worth at the 1 Gbps rate, right?

Potential Customer: I’m well aware of that.

Potential Customer: I run a Tor node on a VPS now and transfer about 80 GB/day up and down.

Potential Customer: I have 7 Mbps service at home now. I could do more with faster service, but not if it’s capped at 33 minutes’ worth.

Jodi B.: Almost all residential internet providers are going to have a data cap of around 250GB or 300GB so you will need to speak with our Business Department in order to look into the cost of getting an internet connection without a cap.

Jodi B.: For assistance with Small Business services, please call us at 1-800-603-6000 Monday thru Friday during normal business hours.

Potential Customer: I don’t understand the relevance of other service providers, but can you transfer me to your business department?

Potential Customer: Ah. Okay.

Potential Customer: So to be clear: I’m calculating this correctly?

Potential Customer: 250 gigabytes divided by one gigabit per second = 2,000 seconds = 33.33 minutes

Potential Customer: Is that your understanding? That the service level you’re offering for $80/mo is capped at a half-hour of full-speed transfer per month?

Potential Customer: (which of course, many people would spread out to, say, one minute per day at full speed for a month)

Potential Customer: or many minutes per day at much less than full speed

Potential Customer: all of this suggesting that the full speed is just a gimmick

Jodi B.: Assuming that you are transferring files that are 250GB then yes.

Potential Customer: Let’s be clear: It doesn’t matter if the two hundred and fifty gigabytes are arranged as files or as streams or as anything else. Your service is capped at 33 minutes per month at the speed offered, regardless of the content of my transfer. Best I can tell, since your company refuses to publish details on your website.

Jodi B.: Downloading a large file with this speed will take fractions of seconds.

Potential Customer: And at the slower, $30/month up-to-40-Mbps service, that’s about 13 hours to hit the cap.

Jodi B.: Our High Speed Internet policies are located at CenturyLink.com under Internet Management Disclosures.

Jodi B.: How many bits per month are you needing to transfer?

Potential Customer: Max speed in bits per second times 30 times 24 times 60 times 60

Potential Customer: As I said before, if I have faster service, I’ll transfer more data.

Jodi B.: I would recommend calling into business for further assistance. Business offers plans with much higher caps.

Jodi B.: Is there anything else that I can help you with today?

Potential Customer: One month X 1 Gbps = 328.5 TB

Potential Customer: so that’s more than 1000 times your cap

Potential Customer: 1 TB = 1024 GB

Potential Customer: Why would I pay more for faster service when it includes the same monthly limit?

Potential Customer: to get my email in fewer fractions of a second?

Jodi B.: There are no residential Internet providers that offer caps over 300GB in a month that I have ever heard of.

Jodi B.: If you call business they will better be able to help you with the cap issue.

Potential Customer: If you don’t mind, I’d like to focus on CenturyLink right now.

Potential Customer: Do you know if your business pricing is listed on the Web?

Jodi B.: Well if you are saying that you are downloading 2400GB per month on a residential account. I believe that you are mistaken on how much you are actually downloading in a month currently.

Jodi B.: I would recommend business again if you are needing a higher cap.

Jodi B.: There is nothing I can do to increase the cap for you from here.

Potential Customer: Okay. Thanks for chatting. Someone from CenturyLink stopped by my home yesterday to announce that there’s faster service offered here. I told her last time I spoke with someone, you had a data cap of much less than a month. She was unaware of any cap, so I thought I’d check yet again to see if this is more than a gimmick. You’ve made it clear that “up to 1 Gbps (in limited areas) when you bundle” is, indeed, a gimmick.

info: Your chat transcript will be sent to [the e-mail address you provided] at the end of your chat.

From November, 2013:

Chat Information Thank you for contacting CenturyLink. My name is Mark S.. How may I help you today?
Mark S.: Thank you for chatting in with Centurylink Phillip! We now bundle with DirecTV! How can I help you?
Phillip Mocek: Hi.  I’m interested in faster DSL service.  Each month, I’m paying about $45 to Centurylink plus $20 to my ISP for 7 mbps.  A coworker who lives a few miles from me pays about $70 for much faster DSL service from Centurylink.
Phillip Mocek: I’m very close to the CO.  What are my options?
Phillip Mocek: And I’m somewhat confident that your staff laid fiber under my road a couple years ago.
Mark S.: I would be happy to help you! may I have your phone number?
Phillip Mocek: I had to enter it in order to start this chat.  What was the purpose of that if you don’t have it?
Mark S.: I have to have it in chat for quality reasons.
Phillip Mocek: Please just tell me what you’re willing to sell me if I pay you more.
Mark S.: I can sell you anything.
Mark S.: That it will allow me to.
Phillip Mocek: Great.  What are my options for faster service?
Mark S.: But that may be not what you want.
Mark S.: Well I would need your phone number?
Mark S.: Get your account pulled up and have you verify then we can go from there
Phillip Mocek: I already provided it.
Mark S.: I need it in the window we are talking in or I cant help you,
Phillip Mocek: Does your computer show you the number I provided when I started this chat or not?
Mark S.: It does not. Its used to get you to the right chat department.
Phillip Mocek: [REDACTED]
Mark S.: Thank you Sir.
Mark S.: May I have the last four of your ssn for verification?
Phillip Mocek: No, you may not.  Can you tell me what service you offer at [REDACTED] in Seattle, 98122?
Mark S.: One moment please.
Phillip Mocek: This isn’t about me; it’s about what service CL offers.
Mark S.: We offer up to 12mbps internet.
Phillip Mocek: How much does that cost?
Mark S.: It all depends on what promotions you have available to you and what is currently on the account.
Phillip Mocek: It would be great if this was just on your website.  I’m pretty handy with a browser.
Mark S.: You can sign in to your myaccount profile and do everything there.
Phillip Mocek: When I clicked on the “change service’ button the site told me I couldn’t alter my Internet service and offered this chat.
Mark S.: Okay.
Phillip Mocek: Where can I look at prices?  Can you give me the URL?
Mark S.: It wouldnt reflect what you would be paying. Since you are a current customer.
Phillip Mocek: Would it show the maximum?
Mark S.: The only option that you have to go over pricing with me is verifying your self.
Mark S.: It would show the lowest
Phillip Mocek: Or a better question: What is the most you charge for that service?
Mark S.: 50.00
Phillip Mocek: Let’s just assume that I’m going to get your worst deal.
Phillip Mocek: !
Phillip Mocek: Okay, so I could switch from 7 mbps to 12 mbps, and it would cost at most $50/mo?
Mark S.: That is correct.
Phillip Mocek: Is that just the fee I pay you, and I’d still need a standalone ISP in addition, or is that total, with CL as the ISP?
Mark S.: CL as the isp
Phillip Mocek: And is 12 mbps the fastest you offer?  I have a strong distaste for Comcast due to their efforts to fight net neutrality, but cable seems to be faster these days.
Mark S.: That is at that location. IN alot of areas in seattle we offer 100mbps internet. Then some areas we offer 1gbps internet.
Phillip Mocek: Nice.  You’re going to need that if Gigabit Squared ever gets off the ground.
Phillip Mocek: Okay, I also like the indy ISP I’m using, Telebyte NW.  Can I still do the split thing like I am now, where I pay you for the pipe and them for the routing and support and whatnot?
Mark S.: It would all be done through us.
Phillip Mocek: What kind of hardware would I need?  I’m still using my trusty Cisco 678, which I understand is maxed out.
Phillip Mocek: Oh, and is that 12 mbps symetrical?
Mark S.: Let me check.
Phillip Mocek: Static IP block?
Phillip Mocek: Restrictions on use, or you guys act as common carrier and just shovel the bits?
Mark S.: no stactic ip block.
Mark S.: Its symmetrical. adsl2 technology type so no fiber
Phillip Mocek: And restrictions on use?  I don’t want to switch then find you’re filtering my traffic, prohibiting running a Tor node, saying unmetered but capping or slowing after some threshold, etc.
Phillip Mocek: I really just want a pipe.
Phillip Mocek: ’cause if you provide N mbps, I’m going to do my best to use N mbps.
Mark S.: I understand. We have a 250gb cap everymonth. only .01% hit it
Mark S.: No throttling no overages.
Mark S.: I have not heard from you for a couple of minutes. Do you still need me to keep this chat conversation open for you?
Phillip Mocek: Sorry.  What did you mean by “no overages”?
Mark S.: If you go over the data cap we wont charge you more.
Phillip Mocek: What will you do, then?  I don’t know what the cap means, otherwise.
Mark S.: Just give you letter in the mail stating you went over and that is it.
Phillip Mocek: Is that 250 GB total, up plus down?
Mark S.: That is a great question. I am going to assume down.
Mark S.: Not up.
Phillip Mocek: The Tor relay I run off on a VPS pushes about 80 GB/day each way.
Phillip Mocek: Nov 15 10:11:33.000 [notice] Heartbeat: Tor’s uptime is 1 day 6:00 hours, with 4337 circuits open. I’ve sent 95.98 GB and received 90.85 GB.Nov 15 16:11:33.000 [notice] Heartbeat: Tor’s uptime is 1 day 12:00 hours, with 3258 circuits open. I’ve sent 120.26 GB and received 113.73 GB.Nov 15 22:11:33.000 [notice] Heartbeat: Tor’s uptime is 1 day 18:00 hours, with 2825 circuits open. I’ve sent 140.30 GB and received 132.84 GB.Nov 16 04:11:33.000 [notice] Heartbeat: Tor’s uptime is 2 days 0:00 hours, with 6988 circuits open. I’ve sent 165.30 GB and received 156.68 GB.
Mark S.: The best thing to do at that point is move up to a business account.
Mark S.: Then at that point You can get 20mbps down and 2mbps up.
Mark S.: instead of 12/896K
Phillip Mocek: Okay, I’m curious about that as well.  For the residential service, though, you’re limiting to about 8.33 GB/day (250/30).  That’s 66,664 megabits.  There are 86,400 seconds in a day (60*60*24).  So in effect, you’re limiting to less than 1 mbps, burstable to to 12.  Right?
Phillip Mocek: like 0.772 mpbs
Mark S.: No 12 down 896 K up and you are guaranteed 85 to 100% of your speed at all times.
Mark S.: with business you will get 20mbps down and 2mbps up
Phillip Mocek: I’m trying to calculate how long it would take to push 250 gigabytes at 12 megabits per second.  Do you have that handy?
Mark S.: I do not have that handy
Phillip Mocek: It’s 46.3 hours. http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=250+gigabytes+at+12+mbps
Mark S.: That is awesome.
Phillip Mocek: So if I use the 12 mbps you offer, I’ll hit my monthly cap in less than two days.
Phillip Mocek: Right?
Mark S.: Assuming you are using everything 24/7
Phillip Mocek: Right.  At the speed you offer, I would hit your imposed monthly transfer cap in less than two days.  If I use it at 50%, I’ll get four days.  If I use it at 25%, I’ll get a bit over a week.
Phillip Mocek: Is that really what you’re offering?
Mark S.: Yes. Now like I stated earlier your best bet is contacting our business department.
Phillip Mocek: My best bet for getting faster service than I have now, you mean?
Phillip Mocek: You can’t offer it in residential service?
Mark S.: no for what you use the internet for.
Mark S.: We can not.
Phillip Mocek: I don’t believe I’m capped at this point.
Phillip Mocek: I use the Internet to move bits down a wire.
Mark S.: Okay. realistically the best thing to do is going to be stay with what you have now or talk to our business department Phillip.
Phillip Mocek: Are your business-class service rates published?
Mark S.: They are on the business side of the website.
Mark S.: Go to centurylink.com
Mark S.: Then click on the business tab
Phillip Mocek: Could you please provide the URL for pricing?  Your site isn’t all that easy to navigate.
Mark S.: One moment please.
Mark S.: http://www.centurylink.com/small-business/
Phillip Mocek: I got that far.  No prices.
Phillip Mocek: Then on to “Internet and data” at http://www.centurylink.com/small-business/products/business-internet-data/ .  No prices.
Phillip Mocek: Where can I read prices?
Mark S.: You need to click on shop. Then type in your address
Phillip Mocek: The word “shop” is not on that page.
Mark S.: Okay. I am sorry you can call them at 1-800-603-6000.
Mark S.:
Phillip Mocek: You’re telling me your business-class service prices are not available on the Web?
Mark S.: I am not sure.
Phillip Mocek: Could you please find out?
Phillip Mocek: I don’t mean to be a pain, but really, your site is dreadful.
Mark S.: I wouldn’t have access to that information. You would need to call them Phillip.
Mark S.: No worries.
Mark S.: Hold on.
Phillip Mocek: cool, thanks
Mark S.: Do you see business class internet.
Mark S.: Then click on get online.
Phillip Mocek: Yes.  That’s http://www.centurylink.com/small-business/products/business-internet-data/#CTAM
Phillip Mocek: No prices.
Phillip Mocek: no “get online” on the page
Mark S.: I am seeing it on the bottom if you scroll down. It gives internet phone, then internet only, Then a few other boxes. Then underneath them they all say get online.
Phillip Mocek: Oh, I see.  It’s a graphic button.  I was seaching ctrl-f
Mark S.: Okay.
Mark S.: Just check all of that out.
Phillip Mocek: but the get online button tkes me to http://www.centurylink.com/small-business/products/business-internet-data/
Phillip Mocek: no prices
Mark S.: Okay. The best thing to do is give our business group a call Phillip.
Phillip Mocek: There’s an office basics page: http://www.centurylink.com/small-business/products/business-internet-data/high-speed-internet/office-basic/
Phillip Mocek: no prices
Mark S.: Okay more than likely you will have to call them.
Phillip Mocek: Really?  You won’t say on your site what your service costs?
Phillip Mocek: This used car dealer business doesn’t lend confidence to my research into who’s going to connect me to the Internet.
Mark S.: I dont know that is the small business side, Not the residential side.
Phillip Mocek: *sigh*
Phillip Mocek: Can you transfer me to someone who can tell me what it will cost to get service that won’t have me getting nastigrams if I *use* the service for two days straight?
Mark S.: I sure can.
Mark S.: One moment please.
Mark S.: Thank you for using CenturyLink.com today. Our goal is to provide you with excellent service and we appreciate your business. Please take a moment to give us your feedback by completing the post chat survey. If you need further assistance, please click here for additional customer service options on CenturyLink.com.
Phillip Mocek: Thanks!
Chat Information Please wait while I transfer you to an operator at DSL Technical Support.
Chat Information All our representatives are working to assist other customers. There are now 1 customers waiting ahead of you. Your estimated wait time is 0 minutes and 12 seconds. Thank you for your patience.
Chat Information All our representatives are working to assist other customers. There are now 1 customers waiting ahead of you. Your estimated wait time is 0 minutes and 13 seconds. Thank you for your patience.
Chat Information All our representatives are working to assist other customers. There are now 1 customers waiting ahead of you. Your estimated wait time is 0 minutes and 9 seconds. Thank you for your patience.
Chat Information Hello, my name is Chris with CenturyLink Internet support. Will you please verify the billing name and address on this account?
Phillip Mocek: Phillip Mocek, [REDACTED], Seattle, WA
Phillip Mocek: But I’m not seeking info specific to my account.
Chris: oh ok, how can I help you out?
Phillip Mocek: I’d like to know what options are for Internet service faster than 7Mbps/768Kbps.
Phillip Mocek: I found out that with “12 Mbps” residential service, your monthly cap is about 46 hours at that rate.
Chris: We have many options, depending on your area and cableing. We can offer up to 100Mb in certain areas
Phillip Mocek: so it’s really more like 0.77 Mbps, burstable to 12 Mbps
Chris: What do you mean 46 hours? we do not have a time limit
Phillip Mocek: last rep told me there’s a monthly transfer cap of 250 GB
Phillip Mocek: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=250+gigabytes+at+12+mbps
Phillip Mocek: at 12 Mbps, it takes 46.3 hours to push 250 GB
Phillip Mocek: For the residential service, you’re limiting to about 8.33 GB/day (250/30). That’s 66,664 megabits. There are 86,400 seconds in a day (60*60*24). So in effect, you’re limiting to less than 1 mbps, burstable to to 12.
Chris: If you MAXED it out everyday
Phillip Mocek: Sure. If I used the service you offer.
Phillip Mocek: If I used it at 50%, it would last four days
Phillip Mocek: If I only use 25%, it would last about a week.
Chris: if you plan on 12MB every second I would not suggest DSL
Phillip Mocek: I plan to use as much as I’m paying for.
Phillip Mocek: and that’s 12 megabits, not 12 megabytes
Phillip Mocek: I run a Tor relay on a VPS and push 80 GB up, 80 GB down, every day.
Chris: Either way… I would not suggest using that much traffic on DSL
Phillip Mocek: How much would you suggest?
Chris: Then I would not suggest DSL
Phillip Mocek: What would you suggest?
Chris: you are asking about consumer grade DSL and using it for a buisness purpose.
Chris: We only cap Residential DSL
Phillip Mocek: There’s nothing business-y about my use.
Phillip Mocek: No sales, no profit, no employees.
Chris: A TOR relay is also against our User policy.
Phillip Mocek: URL, please?
Phillip Mocek: I asked the last rep, and he mentioned nothing of the sort.
Phillip Mocek: Phillip Mocek: And restrictions on use? I don’t want to switch then find you’re filtering my traffic, prohibiting running a Tor node, saying unmetered but capping or slowing after some threshold, etc. Phillip Mocek: I really just want a pipe. Phillip Mocek: ’cause if you provide N mbps, I’m going to do my best to use N mbps. Mark S.: I understand. We have a 250gb cap everymonth. only .01% hit it Mark S.: No throttling no overages.
Phillip Mocek: Right now, I’m using CL for the pipe, and Telebyte NW as the ISP. I’m unaware of any such restriction, and I want to be sure not to accidentally saddle myself with such.
Phillip Mocek: I just want a pipe. I want you guys to act like the common carrier quasi-monopoly you are, and move my bits.
Chris: CenturyLink™ High-Speed Internet Subscriber Agreement
Chris: Qwest’s Acceptable Use Policy
Chris: Excessive Use Policy (EUP)
Phillip Mocek: In which of those should I be searching for the string “Tor”?
Chris: Look for relay, and I can also get you in touch with our legal dept for clear definitions.
Chris: However I would sugest an optical service for 80GB a day
Phillip Mocek: The word “relay” is not on any of those three pages.
Chris: 80GB a day is a TON of traffic and you will hit usage guidlines.
Chris: You are not allowed to reroute others through your DSL line
Phillip Mocek: I don’t expect 80 GB/day at my home. But if you say 12 Mbps, I’m going to expect 12 megabits x 60 x 60 x 24.
Chris: Not on a residential account
Chris: capped at 250GB a month
Chris: or you can choose the buisness service and not deal with a cap at all
Phillip Mocek: Who are “others”? I would expect to be able to VPN from my phone to my home to the Internet if I like.
Phillip Mocek: and offer the same to my friends
Phillip Mocek: or anyone
Phillip Mocek: Unless you’re not really just providing a pipe and shoveling bits.
Phillip Mocek: Which is what I want.
Phillip Mocek: Not a nanny.
Phillip Mocek: Not a Comcast-style filter.
Phillip Mocek: Just an honest assessment of how many bits you’re willing to move per second.
Phillip Mocek: You know, ISP service.
Phillip Mocek: Last rep suggested business-class, but neither of us could find prices for such on your website.
Chris: We dont care what bits are moved.
Phillip Mocek: You just said you do care.
Chris: however, should you find yourself in violation, you are responsible
Phillip Mocek: > Chris: You are not allowed to reroute others through your DSL line
Chris: Is this legal info you seek?
Chris: I am not going to have my words used in a legal manner
Phillip Mocek: I wanted to find out if you offered more robust service than I’m paying for now. I pay CL about $45 and Telebyte about $20 for 7Mbps down, 768 Kbps up.
Phillip Mocek: So I was super-psyched when last rep said $50/mo would by 12/12.
Chris: I said we do, up to 100Mb in certain areas.
Phillip Mocek: er, 12 Mbps symetric
Phillip Mocek: He said here I can only get 12.
Chris: then it is 12/1mb
Phillip Mocek: Phillip Mocek: Okay, so I could switch from 7 mbps to 12 mbps, and it would cost at most $50/mo? Mark S.: That is correct. Phillip Mocek: Is that just the fee I pay you, and I’d still need a standalone ISP in addition, or is that total, with CL as the ISP? Mark S.: CL as the isp Phillip Mocek: And is 12 mbps the fastest you offer? I have a strong distaste for Comcast due to their efforts to fight net neutrality, but cable seems to be faster these days. Mark S.: That is at that location. IN alot of areas in seattle we offer 100mbps internet. Then some areas we offer 1gbps internet.
Phillip Mocek: So, 12/1, capped at about two days at that rate, and maybe a prohibition on running a Tor relay?
Chris: I won’t answer on TOR, your line your responsibility. Like I said our legal department can answer specifics. But I would say with over head your not at 12Mb, you are at 10ish
Phillip Mocek: Actually, you did say on Tor.
Phillip Mocek: > Chris: A TOR relay is also against our User policy.
Phillip Mocek: So what are my options for a higher level of service than that which Mark S. and I discussed?
Chris: Like I stated are you using this for legal. I gave you heads up. Sorry.
Phillip Mocek: I don’t know what it means to “use this for legal.” I just want a connection to the Internet, maybe faster than the one your’e selling me already.
Chris: Buisness class service. It is the same speeds jsut no Bandwidth cap.
Phillip Mocek: Where can I find prices?
Phillip Mocek: CL’s website is not particularly user-friendly.
Chris: That is if you want 12Mb. Obviously with optic or dedicated we can go Gigs
Phillip Mocek: yeah, I’m pretty sure I saw your vans laying fiber down my road a few years ago
Phillip Mocek: can’t find anything about it on your website
Phillip Mocek: really curious
Phillip Mocek: Gigabit Squared is still vapor-service, but they’e planning to offer gigabit service for $85/mo here.
Phillip Mocek: I’d buy that from you in a heartbeat.
Chris: I will say, just off the hand… usually you are about 10-20 more for business class.
Phillip Mocek: I’d sign up today.
Chris: I know we are deploying 1GB service in certain areas. I can check build out dates for you
Phillip Mocek: Oh, cool. Please do.
Chris: one sec – your current number is [REDACTED]?
Phillip Mocek: just a sec, I’ll check
Phillip Mocek: (no phone here, so I don’t remmber it)
Chris: Looks like that account matches the address above
Phillip Mocek: [REDACTED]
Phillip Mocek: $60-70/mo for 12 Mbps with static IP address(es) would be very enticing.
Chris: we can actually do 20 on a bonded service. so it would be 20/2
Phillip Mocek: Residential, or business-class?
Chris: And I belive that is buisness class and no caps/ restrictions etc… I mean unless it is illegal in your state or the other 50… (bittorrent) for example
Phillip Mocek: Also, Mark said:
Phillip Mocek: > Mark S.: Its symmetrical. adsl2 technology type so no fiber
Chris: Price wise it is pretty much the same, don’t quote me on that… but I know it is within that range of 70ish
Phillip Mocek: By “symmetrical” did he mean “asymmetrical”?
Phillip Mocek: understood, rough estimate is helpful
Chris: I think so. I would love 20/20
Phillip Mocek: darn
Chris: I wish they gave us pricing… So much easier to assist customers.
Phillip Mocek: So, if upstream is only 1 or 2 Mbps, then I’m less concerned about the 250 GB cap.
Chris: Im still looking online for a price chart for you also
Phillip Mocek: yeah, not showing pricing is nuts
Phillip Mocek: unless the goal is to be misleading
Phillip Mocek: which doesn’t inpire confidence
Chris: We dont cap upstream, just download
Phillip Mocek: in a company I’ll trust with my connection to the world
Chris: agreed
Phillip Mocek: Hmm… at 2 Mbps, 250 GB still takes only about 11 days. http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=250+gigabytes+at+2+mbps
Phillip Mocek: The $50/mo residential Mark and I discussed: Is that the bonded service you mentioned?
Chris: right but we don’t cap upstream or restrict on upstream traffic
Chris: from what he said and I am looking at it is just the 12mb service.
Phillip Mocek: Well, my major use case (helping human rights workers and regular people living in oppressive regimes get access to the ‘net withough govt interference, via contribution to the Tor network) is inherently symetrical.
Chris: I see… Well I would say this given what you do. I would not go residential. Just personal though process on that
Phillip Mocek: So what’s the best way to find out what CL offers beyond residential-class svc?
Phillip Mocek: Do I really have to call, talk, listen, take notes?
Phillip Mocek: Can you transfer me to someone who has biz-class pricing?
Chris: I can I am looking also in my documents of what maybe pricing wise
Phillip Mocek: ’cause again, 250 gigabytes per /month is about 0.77 megabits per seconds. Blech.
Phillip Mocek: That’s worse than I have now. I don’t know of any monthly tranfer cap on my 7/768 svc.
Chris: I would just as a recommendation, go business class… If only to not have the 250 GB monthly cap over you. I mean you could go res for a while and see if you hit it, and if you do move later
Phillip Mocek: If I bother to upgrade to so-called 12 Mbps, I will ensure I hit it. :)
Phillip Mocek: Oh, interesting: 768 Kbps (my upstream limit with current svc and my old Cisco 678) is about 250 GB/mo. http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=768+kilobits+per+second+in+gigabytes+per+month
Phillip Mocek: So that’s really what you’re capping people at with your high-speed service: 768 Kbps burstable to 12 Mbps.
Phillip Mocek: In, you know, networking terms.
Phillip Mocek: or roughly so
Chris: Kind of. I mean really you could technically y throughput 12MBPS for almost 2 days strait…
Phillip Mocek: Right. That’s the “burst” part.
Phillip Mocek: but sustained: only 768 Kbps
Chris: but if you loook at it as breaking down seconds/speed rates… Then yea you could say it is busting
Chris: no, you can pull 12mbps steady 48 hours. Bursting would mean as demand increases. WE give you 12MBPS regardless of what you are physically using
Phillip Mocek: Ah, got it.
Phillip Mocek: So anyway, This is great if what someone wants is a replacement for cable TV and and a POTS line. But that’s rather backward thinking. Companies like Gigabit Squared will eat your lunch.
Chris: I mean within the 31 day period allows.
Phillip Mocek: But then CL will probably start competing instead of acting like a monopoly.
Phillip Mocek: Any word on the search for a price sheet?
Chris: I know that is why we are moving to fiber rings and moving to get GB services roled out… but we are not there yet….
Chris: I am but it is a little outdated it appears
Phillip Mocek: Oh, and: Chris: I know we are deploying 1GB service in certain areas. I can check build out dates for you
Phillip Mocek: very curious about that
Chris: Not yet. We are more than 6 months in your location. That is as far as I can look.
Chris: Even if I go to our business site and try signing it up it gives me pricing with POTS, and that is like 120 a month. but you dont need POTS so I don’t know how that changes it.
Chris: POTS and other products you might not need, hosting etc… You just need the pipe and maybe a static IP.
Phillip Mocek: Huh. Okay, I was all ready to start giving CL like twice what I pay now, but looks like there’s not really much upside for me. For regular ‘ole Web surfing and e-mail, 7 Mbps down is fine, and the people at Telebyte NW don’t even begin to say what bits I’m allowed to move around, or impose any limites on unmetered service.
Phillip Mocek: Yeah, I pay $5/mo extra for a static block of IP addresses now.
Phillip Mocek: “CenturyLink: At least we’re not Comcast.”
Phillip Mocek: *sigh*
Chris: I would probably say when it is all said and done you might be about same rate just 12MB…
Phillip Mocek: Right, and I’d have to buy new hardware and stop sharing with the indy ISP.
Chris: Just being honest with you, it may be vary little gain moving over…
Phillip Mocek: that’s pretty clear
Phillip Mocek: darn
Chris: Not too say in the future once we start pushing more speed, but as it stands right now with what you said you do and what not… might be best, to stay. I hate saying that because well… You signing up helps the bottom line. but it is allot of work moving over to a new ISP.
Phillip Mocek: I will say this: Your former CEO went to jail instead of rolling over for adversary #1. That doesn’t go unnoticed.
Phillip Mocek: Okay, gotta move on. Thanks for chatting.
Chris: You’re welcome. Is there anything else I can do for you?
Phillip Mocek: Nope, that’s all. Thanks for the helpful info.
Chris: no problem. On Monday if you want chat into our business team for sales. They can give you a solid figure on the 20/2 Pair Bond.

From February, 2014:

Chat Information Hello, my name is Zachary M. (20717), your CenturyLink TV and entertainment specialist. How may I assist you today?
Zachary M. (20717): Hello Phillip! Thank you for contacting CenturyLink! How can I assist you today?
Phillip Mocek: Argh. I was just in another chat with a sales rep, and I accidentally hit ctrl-w and closed the window instead of ctrl-v to paste something.
Phillip Mocek: We were exploring what Internet service is available from CenturyLink at my home address.
Zachary M. (20717): Ok I would be happy to help you out with that today
Phillip Mocek: The soft answer is 12 Mbps downstream, unspecified upstream. The real answer is that you won’t offer faster if it’s called residential service, but will offer at least 20 Mbps if it’s called small business.
Phillip Mocek: And possibly bonded circuits bringing it to 40 Mbps.
Phillip Mocek: I’m a customer now. I pay about $45/mo to CenturyLink and about $20/mo to my ISP, Telebyte Northwest.
Phillip Mocek: My CL “phone number” (I don’t have POTS service) is [REDACTED].
Phillip Mocek: l4d of SSN [REDACTED]
Zachary M. (20717): OK I will look that up for you
Zachary M. (20717): Thank you
Phillip Mocek: The last rep told me the 12 Mbps service is about $52/mo, or about $30/mo with a one-year term. A block of five usable IP addresses costs an extra $15/mo, and a single IP address costs $6/mo.
Phillip Mocek: Early termination fee is remaining monthly charges, capped at $200.
Phillip Mocek: for the 1-year term
Zachary M. (20717): Yes that is correct
Phillip Mocek: I spoke with a rep at your small-business sales line yesterday, she explained that the service we discussed (20Mbps down, unclear but mabye 2Mbps up), would cost about $125 per month. When I asked what the next level down would be, she explained that they could provide the *same* Internet service, with a POTS line, maybe long distance, and some small biz stuff I don’t need, for about $85/mo. I asked her if she could throw in any additional services that would further lower the monthly rate. She thought not.
Phillip Mocek: Are there additional services you can offer that would lower the monthly rate for residential service? I know it sounds ridiculous, but we’re laughing at CL, not at me.
Zachary M. (20717): OK what I am going to do is get you back over to Sean J. And he is going to go through and get you set up today ok?
Phillip Mocek: Cool, thanks.
Zachary M. (20717): Not a problem
Chat Information Please wait while I transfer the chat to ‘Sean J. (20858)’.
Chat Information Hello, my name is Sean J. (20858), your CenturyLink TV and entertainment specialist. How may I assist you today?
Sean J. (20858): Good evening Phillip! Good to hear back from you.
Phillip Mocek: Right after I said I’m good with a Web browser, I flubbed a paste action and hit ctrl-w instead. Sorry ’bout that.
Sean J. (20858): Oh no worries at all. I figured something like that happened!
Phillip Mocek: I was just about to ask you: When I spoke with a rep at your small-business sales line yesterday, she explained that the service we discussed (20Mbps down, unclear but mabye 2Mbps up), would cost about $125 per month. When I asked what the next level down would be, she explained that they could provide the *same* Internet service, with a POTS line, maybe long distance, and some small biz stuff I don’t need, for about $85/mo. I asked her if she could throw in any additional services that would further lower the monthly rate. She thought not.
Phillip Mocek: Are there additional services you can offer that would lower the monthly rate for residential service?
Sean J. (20858): In the end, internet only gets you the best pricing. If you are in NEED of phone or DirecTV, you can get this 12m for $19.95/mo, so it all depends on if you need home phone or TV.
Phillip Mocek: I don’t need any of them but am willing to ignore them.
Sean J. (20858): Okay so internet only is your best option for sure.
Phillip Mocek: I was like, “sure, if you want to add on a phone line and the other crap, and charge me *68%* of what you previously quoted, knock yourself out”
Phillip Mocek: Does your residential service include CPE, or is that up to me? With small biz serivce, it’s about $7/mo to lease or $100 to purchase.
Sean J. (20858): That’s really up to you. It’s the same exact pricing! $99.99 to purchase or $6.99/mo to lease.
Phillip Mocek: Ah. I would likely purchase it myself elsewhere. How can I find out just what is needed? My trusty ‘ole Cisco 678s aren’t going to cut it.
Phillip Mocek: I haven’t been following closely, but a bit of research yesterday suggests that ADSL2+ is what I need, and any of them would work.
Sean J. (20858): You won’t need anything else that I can think of. You just plug the modem into the phone jack.
Sean J. (20858): Yep you’re ADSL2+ here, meaning no fiber, but more modems work here.
Sean J. (20858): Actiontec C1000A
Actiontec GT701 (Up to 7M)
Actiontec GT701WG (Up to 7M)
Actiontec M1000
Actiontec PK5000
Actiontec Q1000
Actiontec Q2000
Actiontec V2000H
Motorola 3347
Zyxel PK5000Z
Zyxel PK5001Z
2Wire 2700HG (Up to 12M)
2Wire 2701HG (Up to 12M)
Sean J. (20858): Any of those work.
Phillip Mocek: Great. I’m eyeing this used Linksys X2000 for $40. https://seattle.craigslist.org/see/ele/4335465733.html
Phillip Mocek: or an Actiontec M1000 for $27 https://seattle.craigslist.org/see/for/4301448923.html
Sean J. (20858): That Actiontec would be a safe bet.
Phillip Mocek: Yeah, since it’s on your list.
Sean J. (20858): The M1000 is one of my most recommended on that list too.
Phillip Mocek: I’m kind of partial to Cisco/Linksys, but since we have standards to work with, it’s up to me.
Phillip Mocek: Oh, really? What else do you recommend, and why?
Phillip Mocek: I haven’t shopped for these in like 10 years.
Sean J. (20858): Based on customer testimony, the M1000 has seen relatively the least problems for me, and then the PK5000Z is also very consistent.
Sean J. (20858): They’re all pretty equal, but those 2 have stood out for me.
Phillip Mocek: I care not about the Wi-Fi capability. I’ll probably put my own access point behind whatever I end up with for the modem.
Phillip Mocek: cool
Sean J. (20858): If you don’t care about the wifi, I’d go C1000a all the way if you can. That’s definitely the best one when you take wifi out of the picture I have found.
Phillip Mocek: Actiontec C1000A: got it.
Sean J. (20858): Also the C1000a is VDSL2+ so that’d be useful in the future.
Phillip Mocek: I don’t know what that means, but it sounds like something I should look into.
Sean J. (20858): VDSL2+ is basically just the term for the technology we use with fiber.
Phillip Mocek: great
Phillip Mocek: Okay, I think I’d like to get the ball rolling on this, but I do need to check with my existing ISP to see if they can work with me on the faster pipe from CenturyLink. They’re really clear that they’re just shoveling bits, and as long as I don’t do anything that puts them in jeopardy, it’s my business. I’m concerned about the mountains of fine print with CL as the ISP instead. If you could tell me it’s my service to do with what I please as long as I’m not causing you to violate the law in the process, I’d sign up for a year now.
Sean J. (20858): You can do whatever you want with the service. I’ve heard of customers being notified about illegal downloads but that’s about it. The datacap is generally irrelevant. In the end, no consequences can come from hitting the datacap. You’re really free to use the connection however you want! And you know that 30 day guarantee I mentioned? I think that will be quite useful for you. If you come across anything that upsets you during the first 30 days or anything that doesn’t work for you, you can cancel and get a full refund and the contract is voided.
Phillip Mocek: What’s the upstream rate, again?
Phillip Mocek: with the “12 Mbps” service
Sean J. (20858): 896k on this 12m.
Phillip Mocek: oh, lordy
Phillip Mocek: That’s what I have now.
Sean J. (20858): Hopefully it does the trick!
Phillip Mocek: Well, no. If it did, I wouldn’t be seeking an upgrade. I want to run a Tor node (non-exit, relay only), and possibly stream police scanner audio.
Phillip Mocek: *sigh*
Phillip Mocek: So, what do I have to do to get faster upstream service out of CenturyLink?
Phillip Mocek: than I have with my decade-old service now
Sean J. (20858): Well, you know I think you’re going to like this connection a lot more now that it’s going through us. As far as getting a higher upload speed goes, we only have the option in VDSL2+ areas so you will need to wait until you get renovated to those lines to get those higher upload speeds. That, or you can get a higher upload if you end up switching to a business account. I strongly believe you’re going to like this connection a lot more now that you won’t be going through a third party, though.
Sean J. (20858): So you want me to get an account started up for you?
Sean J. (20858): It will take at least 3 business days before we can activate the connection, giving you some time to look at your prospects of course.
Phillip Mocek: Yeah, given that I refuse to do business with Comcast since they have net neutrality in their sights, and given that the Gigabit Squared deal fell through, let’s do it.
Phillip Mocek: I’d like the single static IP address
Phillip Mocek: Oh, nobody ever answered my question about IPv6 addresses. IPv4 addresses are very scarce, so I understnad the need to ration them.
Sean J. (20858): We must have tech support apply the static IP after the account has been established. I can transfer you over to them once we’re done.
Phillip Mocek: Okay, let’s proceed with the $30/mo 1-year term, then. I’ll provide my own modem.
Phillip Mocek: Do you offer any discount for prepament?
Sean J. (20858): I am not sure on that IP question but tech support will no! Very sorry about my lack of knowledge on the subject. You’re the first customer to ever inquire past “I want a static IP”. I will definitely do some research after our chat because this is definitely an area I am weak in.
Sean J. (20858): Could you elaborate on prepament?
Phillip Mocek: With one of my last ISPs, I got a discount for paying for a whole year of service at once instead of paying monthly.
Sean J. (20858): Oh yes unfortunately we don’t have a discount for that. You should still feel free to pay off the first year, though! Haha.
Phillip Mocek: got it
Phillip Mocek: What else do you need from me to get the ball rolling?
Sean J. (20858): I am going to talk to my supervisor about having a discount for that in the future too. If a customer is willing to do that, we need to give them a reason to. Yes could I have a good contact number for you and the address where you want this set up?
Phillip Mocek: [REDACTED] is my mobile number
Phillip Mocek: PHILLIP MOCEK [REDACTED] 98122
Phillip Mocek: no line breaks allowed in here, I see
Sean J. (20858): Nope, it makes you send another message. However, I can bypass that.
FEAR MY POWER
Phillip Mocek: heh
Phillip Mocek: 1
Phillip Mocek: 2
Phillip Mocek: huh, no ctrl-enter, either
Sean J. (20858): It’d be great if you found a way to bypass it as a customer.
Phillip Mocek: While you’re passing ideas up the totem pole: CenturyLink’s website is horrible. The lack of clear information about services you offer is a problem, and some of the stuff seems not to even work in Chromium or Firefox. I repeatedly ended up at a URL like http://www.centurylink.com/small-business/products/business-internet/#CTAM that’s the same as the one on which I clicked some button.
Phillip Mocek: I tried multiple ways to find out what service–residential–is available at my address, but I’d get a drop-down of apt nbrs at my building, choose one, and find that the submit button does *nothing*.
Phillip Mocek: Man.
Sean J. (20858): You know, I think the site is that way so that you will chat in with a rep and therefore be more likely to buy something.
Phillip Mocek: probably so
Phillip Mocek: *sigh*
Phillip Mocek: You want to see a great service provider site? Ting. They’re a mobile carrier. They use Sprint’s towers, with roaming to Verizon. They’re owned by Tucows (remember them?). Complete no-BS pricing (just tiered, no contract, no “plans”) and super-simple site. https://ting.com/
Phillip Mocek: You pay $6/mo per phone, then pay for the minutes, SMS messages, and data bytes you use.
Phillip Mocek: It’s awesome. You can bring a phone from Sprint.
Sean J. (20858): Oh wow that’s a good deal.
Phillip Mocek: They”re way techie-friendly.
Phillip Mocek: Anyway, great example of a highly functional webiste.
Sean J. (20858): I’ve never had a customer pitch to me, but you’re doing it right. Haha.
Phillip Mocek: I’m just a satisfied customer.
Phillip Mocek: But really, an extra $6/mo for to add mom’s mobile phone, which gets used twice a year when she picks you up at the airport? can’t beat it
Phillip Mocek: I can switch a number to a different phone *in their web UI*.
Sean J. (20858): You sound like me when I pitch DirecTV to customers, no kidding. Maybe you should work here instead of doing your own thing.
Phillip Mocek: Heh. When I quit writing software to manage the pipeline from developers to customers, I’ll go to law school and go find a job with EFF.
Sean J. (20858): That sounds like a plan ;] so I do have to tell you, the contract is 12 months and the early termination fee is the service rate multiplied by the months left in the service at the time of termination. This pricing is $29.95/mo but will go to $52/mo in a year. The $29.95/mo pricing requires that you INTEND to set up autopay whenever you get the chance.
Sean J. (20858): There’s just a one time fee of $19.95 to activate the connection and that goes on the first bill okay? This and everything else is covered in the 30 day guarantee.
Phillip Mocek: Got it.
Sean J. (20858): Sorry for the delay! Just getting everything configured.
Sean J. (20858): Our system needs to run an external credit history check just to make sure you don’t have any final bills with us. Could I have your SSN and Date of Birth for this please?
Phillip Mocek: no problem; multitasking away
Phillip Mocek: I owe $40 right now, but couldn’t get your website to take my online payment.
Phillip Mocek: [REDACTED] [REDACTED]
Sean J. (20858): That won’t show up since the account is still open.
Sean J. (20858): So we should be all fine!
Phillip Mocek: Actually, what’s the credit check for, given that I’ve been a customer for several years?
Phillip Mocek: my credit with the ratings bureaus is crapola; with CenturyLink it’s flawless
Sean J. (20858): We have to do it for all new accounts, it just checks to see that you aren’t delinquent with us.
Sean J. (20858): Well then that should be all that matters!
Phillip Mocek: Cool.
Sean J. (20858): Everything looks good.
Sean J. (20858): Is there anyone you want to authorize on this account?
Phillip Mocek: no, thanks
Sean J. (20858): What’s a good email to send the confirmation to whenever you get the chance?
Phillip Mocek: pmocek-centurylink@mocek.org
Sean J. (20858): Thanks. We’re just about done. The soonest we can get this activated is going to be the 4th. Does that day sound okay to you? It’ll be activated by 5pm and you don’t need to be home for that.
Phillip Mocek: That would be fine.
Phillip Mocek: Will there be down time between the old service ending and the new service beginning? It’s the same two wires.
Sean J. (20858): You will need to call the ISP you’re going through and arrange a disconnect on the 4th. There should be about 5 hours of downtime like it does in these cases most of the time.
Phillip Mocek: Okay. Remember, this is a CenturyLink connection I’m using now.
Phillip Mocek: Just with a different company as the ISP.
Sean J. (20858): You would think that we coordinate the activation of our connection and the disconnection of theirs to save some time/money/trouble since they’re using our lines. It’s done separately though, but that’s another thing to talk with my boss about.
Phillip Mocek: Okay, got it.
Sean J. (20858): Following is a recap of today’s order:
Service Address: [REDACTED] 98122
Service(s) ordered: 12m High Speed Internet 12 month term
Order Due Date: 03/04/2014
Billing Telephone Number: [REDACTED]
E-Mail Address: pmocek-centurylink@mocek.org
Contact Telephone Number: [REDACTED]
Monthly charges: $29.95
Estimated First Bill: $62.78 and this has our highest estimated taxes, fees, and surcharges and 2 days of proration. Basically, tax is overestimated at $10 or so and then there’s about $2 in proration for the extra 2 days, and with the service rate and the activation fee, you get this total. I’d expect about $55 or so since the taxes, fees, and surcharges are overestimated.
Order Number: N 65050300
Disclosures: You can view CenturyLink’s high speed internet policies at CenturyLink.com under internet management disclosures.
Sean J. (20858): Any questions or concerns?
Phillip Mocek: I don’t know where that billing number of [REDACTED] came from.
Sean J. (20858): Ah, yes this is just a randomly generated number that we’ve assigned to the account.
Sean J. (20858): So it’s not a real phone number, just your account number.
Phillip Mocek: Heh. Phone company sees every account as a phone number.
Sean J. (20858): Yep exactly!
Phillip Mocek: Okay, only other business was arranging for the static IP address.
Phillip Mocek: And I want to know when to expect to receive information about configuring my modem for the new service.
Sean J. (20858): You should get a confirmation email with a link to information on that, but I’d ask tech support about that too.
Phillip Mocek: Okay. I guess that’s all I need from you, then. Thanks for your informative assistance.
Sean J. (20858): Well sure thing Phillip! You have to be one of my favorite customers in my time here for sure.
Sean J. (20858): Want me to transfer you to tech support now?
Phillip Mocek: Awesome.
Phillip Mocek: Please do.
Sean J. (20858): Have a good one Phillip!
Phillip Mocek: You, too.

That order was cancelled by CenturyLink without notice to me until I called later to ask for a status update. I forgot the exact reasoning, but it was related to the sales representative doing something he was not supposed to do.

Sep 222014
 

Public records I received last week reveal that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are requiring police departments to engage in nondisclosure agreements with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in order to receive permission to use IMSI catchers, the mobile phone surveillance devices that allow operators to slurp up information about every mobile phone in the area, from serial numbers to voice and SMS content.

Last spring, I read about police in Florida using these devices and hiding it from the public, from prosecutors, and from judges. Details are scant, in part because the U.S Marshals confiscated public records about them before the Sarasota police were able to provide copies as requested under the state’s public records law.

Various ACLU affiliates around the nation were researching law enforcement agencies’ use of the devices, but it wasn’t happening in Washington, so I filed a series of similar requests with about 20 law enforcement agencies. All except one eventually responded with notification that they had no records responsive to my request.

Results came back positive for Tacoma, a city of 200,000 about 30 miles south of Seattle. They have had a device from Harris Corporation’s Stingray line since 2008. They, like Sarasota, have been dishonest about the situation, convincing Tacoma City Council to pay for an upgrade under the guise of bomb detection equipment, and receiving search warrants from judges for pen register or trap and trace devices, then using the IMSI catcher instead.

Kate Martin, a reporter at Tacoma News-Tribune, came across my request on MuckRock and ran a 2800-word piece on the topic last month. She followed up with an article including Tacoma Police Department claims that they don’t keep data they collect with the Stingray, and another with a report that some Tacoma City Council members were briefed on the device.

The latest news is a nondisclosure agreement concerning use of the their IMSI catcher. Three months since I requested it (a delay that likely constitutes a violation of the Washington Public Records Act), Tacoma Police finally handed over a copy last week. A letter, dated December 19, 2013, from Laura M. Laughlin of FBI to Tacoma Police Chief Donald Ramsdell, begins with the following:

We have been advised by Harris Corporation of the Tacoma Police Department’s request for acquisition of certain wireless collection equipment/technology manufactured by Harris Corporation. Consistent with the conditions on the equipment authorization granted to Harris Corporation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state and local law enforcement agencies must coordinate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to complete this non-disclosure agreement prior to the acquisition and use of the equipment/technology authorized by the FCC authorization.

The next four pages of the letter were redacted in their entirety, citing “specific intelligence information the non-disclosure of which is essential for effective law enforcement.”

Today, reporter Shawn Musgrave kicks off MuckRock News’ crowdfunded “The Spy in Your Pocket” series with a detailed look at the apparently-unprecidented arrangement with the FCC.

Mar 172014
 

Last October, suspecting that multiple City of Seattle departments were flouting a law passed in 2013 that restricts their acquisition and use of surveillance equipment, I requested public records that would exist had those departments complied. Processing of my request was unsatisfactory (possibly unlawful), so I requested and received the administrative tracking file for that [...]

Feb 222014
 

Yesterday, fellow Seattleite Joe Szilagyi issued this thoughtful suggestion for police reform: I’m convinced we can’t reform the Seattle Police unless there is a voter-driven ballot measure that specifically bars the City from entering into any contract agreement with SPOG that does not includes provisions for reform, like total civilian oversight. Successive Mayors and City [...]

Feb 222014
 

I transcribed the press conference Seattle Mayor Ed Murray held to field questions about Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey’s recent decision to overturn several findings of officer misconduct (see “Police Chief Misled Mayor and Council on Misconduct Decision” by Dominic Holden for background information): Ed Murray: Good evening. I wanted to provide some context to the [...]

Mar 202013
 

Ahead of fulfilment of the public records request I placed for all such letters received by Seattle City Council, I received yesterday a copy of the March 15, 2013, letter from Seattle Police Department Chief John Diaz to Mike O’Brien of Seattle City Council concerning C.B. 117730, the bill that passed Monday which regulates the [...]

Mar 192013
 

I believe I may have been a bit hasty in my assessment yesterday of the situation surrounding Seattle Police Department meddling in the crafting of legislation intended in part to restrict police acquisition and use of surveillance equipment (C.B. 117730).  I still feel that changes to the bill made between versions 10 and 12 weakened [...]

Mar 192013
 

On Monday, March 18, 2013, Seattle City Council passed C.B. 117730, which restricts City all departments’ acquisition and use of surveillance equipment. This is generally a good thing, but there are games being played, and the public are losing. Seattle Police Department’s representative, Clark Kimerer, was all smiles when the bill was discussed publicly during [...]

Mar 152013
 

I previously wrote about Seattle City Council Bill 117730, which would require city departments to receive Council approval before acquiring most surveillance equipment. In the few days between the time when I received a copy of the bill and the introduction of the bill at the March 6, 2013, meeting of the Council’s Public Safety, [...]